Caught by the River

Midsummer Radio

Sue Brooks | 24th June 2018

Sue Brooks recommends some choice programming across BBC Radio 3 and 4, including features on forests, Lepidoptera, and Virginia Woolf.

“In midsummer week, Radio 3 enters one of the most potent sources of the human imagination”. I came across this by chance yesterday. POTENT. What a word that is, and the idea of Radio 3 diving fearlessly into the deep end was thrilling. It goes on – “Into The Forest explores the enchantment, escape and magical danger of the forest in summer, with slow radio moments featuring the sounds of the forest, allowing time out from today’s often frenetic world.”

Dive fearlessly she did. The beautifully named Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough takes us into the most powerful forty-five minutes of sound and spoken word I have heard this year (Sunday Feature: The Summer Forest). She continues on The Essay, Monday to Friday, in various English woods – in the company of Fiona Stafford in Warwickshire, Will Ashon in Epping Forest, and Andrew C Scott in Swinley Woods. There will be discussions about Oliver Rackham and the health and wellbeing of future forests – a lovely phrase to keep in mind – and how a perfumer is inspired by the base notes of forest scents.

And there is more. Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest on the Free Thinking slot, and Into The Forest music on the 6:30am Breakfast programme. Not to be outdone, Radio 4 are featuring two episodes in the excellent Pursuit of Beauty series. In the first, the artist Alison Turnbull and the Senior Curator of Lepidoptera at the National History Museum Blanca Huertas are in the remote tropical forest of Choco in Columbia, among some of the most exotic butterflies on the planet. It includes the cultured voice of Vladimir Nabokov from the archives, recalling “the freshness of the flowers…as I was running downstairs with my butterfly net on a summer’s day, oh, half a century ago.” Words I have read many times, but never heard spoken by the author, and so heartbreakingly poignant. Radio could be no better, I thought, but then I saw what had been planned for the Summer Solstice on Thursday June 21st.

Pursuit of Beauty. Virginia Woolf: Impossible Music.

In search of the musicality and sonic landscape of Virginia Woolf’s world. Written and presented by Fiona Talkington.

It will be a triumph – it is already a triumph in this listener’s imagination. BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4. Ahhh. We must celebrate them and pay our licence fee with pride.